Blacklists Matter

Over the past weekend I watched Trumbo, the story of the Marxist screenwriter blacklisted by Hollywood during the Red Scare back in the 1950s.  To say that I watched it with a jaundiced eye would be a very big understatement, because I suspected (just from the trailer) that the movie would just be one big blowjob for both Dalton Trumbo and his merry little band of Commiesymps who infested Hollywood back then.

And it was.  Needless to say, the movie made villains of the conservatives who opposed the Marxist infiltration:  people like John Wayne and Hedda Hopper in particular, Wayne because Wayne, and Hopper because she had a son serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War.  Of course Wayne was made out to be a bully and Hopper a vindictive bitch — and the Senators and Congressmen who haled the Commies in front of the Senate and House Un-American Committee (HUAC) were depicted as ideological purists who saw Communists behind every bush — even though, in the case of Hollywood, there were Commies behind every bush at the time.

Of course, much was made of the fact that being a Communist wasn’t actually illegal (then, and now), and Trumbo made a great show of this being a First Amendment issue — which it was — and how these Commies all wanted to improve America, but of course there were evil right-wingers like Wayne, Joe McCarthy and HUAC harassing them at every turn.

The execution of the traitors Julius and Ethel Rosenberg got a little puff piece in the movie, which didn’t — couldn’t — actually say they weren’t not guilty of treason espionage, so it was brushed over with the throwaway that it was the first execution for esionage in peace time, as though peace time should give espionage a pass.  And if that wasn’t enough, the Rosenberg children were paraded around as sympathy magnets — as they still are — because Communists have no problem using children to serve their own purposes.

Anyway, it all ended well because a few courageous moviemakers flouted the blacklist and finally posted Trumbo’s name in the screenwriting credits for Exodus and Spartacus.

Which brings me to my main point.  I think we can all agree that blacklists are iniquitous — essentially, blacklists mandate the suppression of people’s livelihoods just for holding unpopular opinions or beliefs.  It’s a good thing that Trumbo never wrote the word “nigger”, “queer” or “lesbo” in any of his screenplays, or else his work would be on another blacklist, this time drawn up by the humorless and wokey censors that are everywhere prevalent in show business, academia, government and corporations.  (That these sensitive, censorious souls are proud to call themselves Communists — I’m sorry, democratic socialists or anti-fascists — is an occasion for mirth, irony and satire, but of course ideologues, Marxists most of all, are characterized by a singular lack of a sense of humor.)

So here we are, in a full circle:  people are denied consideration for employment for their political beliefs;  employers get rid of people with contrary political beliefs;  and institutions are being forced to implement policies that parrot the “party line” or The Narrative (take your pick).

But here’s the essential difference between the 1950s-era blacklist and that of the 2010s.  When people fought back against Communism encroachment into the American polity and culture, it wasn’t because they were “fascists”  or “right-wingers”;  it was because the truths of life under Communism were everywhere to be seen:  gulags and the KGB in the Soviet Union, poverty, murder and corruption in socialist Third World countries, and rampant misery in all — all — the countries behind the Iron Curtain.  There was a very good reason to prevent Communism from taking hold here.

Now?  There are no examples of actual “fascism” in America, and to any Black person from the 1880s through the 1950s, the wokeist accusations of modern-day “systemic racism” would cause loud laughter and a shaking of the head.  The only ills that modern-day Communism would seek to cure are largely imaginary, a product of a mindset that demands “safe spaces”, “freedom from hate” and “Black(-only) Lives Matter”.

One thing that does interest me, purely as an intellectual exercise:  would the late Dalton Trumbo agree with what’s going on with the modern-day blacklist?  If he didn’t — assuming he could see the parallels between his predicament in the 1950s with “wrongthinkers” of today — I would hope that he’d employ the same passionate arguments and his legendary scorn against today’s blacklist as he did for his own.

If, however, Trumbo didn’t come out against today’s blacklist and even supported its aims, then I would suggest that his blacklisting in the 1950s was fully justified.


  1. Minor quibble WRT the Rosenbergs: They were convicted of Espionage, not Treason. Treason is the only crime defined in the Constitution and consists only of “Waging war against the United States.” [fixed, thankee – K]

    The Rosenberg’s could not have been convicted of that because their spying took place during WWII and the country on whose behalf they were spying, the USSR, was in fact an ally of the US at the time (which was a defense they tried unsuccessfully to raise.)

    The Rosenbergs were certainly guilty of espionage but their execution was more a result of bad timing.

    One thing people tend to gloss over when they look at the Rosenberg’s trial is the context of the times.

    By the time they were convicted in 1951, a series of cascading events – the Soviet subjugation of Eastern Europe, the Berlin crisis of 1948, the victory of the Communists in China, the Soviet explosion of an atom bomb, and of course the Korean War, which was raging during the trial – had led many Americans to believe that the Communists were ascendant, on the march forward, and a dire threat to Western civilization.

    Had the Rosenbergs been convicted before the Korean war, it’s likely that they would have just been imprisoned, as most of the other co-conspirators were. IMO the worst spy of the whole ring was Ethel Rosenberg’s brother David Greenglass, an enlisted soldier working in the Manhattan Project, who provided detailed plans of the atomic bomb to the Soviets. If anybody deserved to go to the chair it was Greenglass. But he cut a deal with the prosecution, which spared him the electric chair.

    Greenglass was a real piece of work, he stated cold bloodedly that he implicated his sister Ethel Rosenberg in order to spare his wife (which worked: His wife, who was probably at least as guilty as Ethel Rosenberg, was never charged.)

    For those interested in this I can recommend a couple of books, both by the same author: Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986) and Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb (1995.) The second book goes more into detail about the Rosenbergs but even that was published before the Venona files which confirmed that Julius and Ethel were both heavily involved in espionage for the USSR during WWII.

  2. I read constantly.

    One of my favored sources for real hold-in-my-hands and dog-ear-the-pages books is Dollar Store.
    In the Eugene/Springfield area of Oregon, we have two branch outlets.
    They offer a wide variety of books — hardback and paperback — for children and adults.

    In the book shelves at Dollar Store, I saw — I am not making this up — hundreds of hardback books with the title TRUMBO.
    The front covers showed a dark-hair gent staring at a typewriter.
    I glanced at the back cover of one for an idea of the content.
    A pity-party for commies.
    I don’t ‘get’ it.

    Mister Du Toit, you have more patience than me.

    1. Those books are there so the publisher can claim them as “sold”. The fact they were sold to the Dollar Store and not individuals is to inflate the numbers to get on the bestsellers lists.

      I do my book shopping in used book stores and see a large number of these “bestsellers” a few months after their debut looking like they never made it off someones coffee table or were opened for that matter.

  3. To answer your final question – whether Trumbo himself would support the current de facto blacklisting, I think to even ask the question assumes a level of intellectual honesty that is sadly missing from most left wing activists both then and now.

    So the answer is: Of COURSE he would support it. He would be an enthusiastic practitioner of it. After all, when your cause is “justice”, any action you take is justified, right?

  4. I would ask Trumbo what he thinks of the top-down command polity that the WuFlu has given us, with whole populations “sheltering in place”, and being told where they can and cannot shop, worship, play, etc., and is that what he envisioned a Marxist America would bring?

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